127th over: England 343-5 (Root 160, Pope 34) Nice from Pope, cutting Henry’s fourth ball for four to backward point, after Root nurdles a single to leg. Pope adds one more, and the lead is now down to 26; England should eliminate that before lunch, and can then see what’s what in the afternoon.
James Debens is back! “Dev, Doosra, Beefy, Mick & Katich; ECB40; The Brian Closetown Massacre; The Botany Bay City Rollers; Peter, Chanderpaul & Mary; Tendulkarsticks; Dravid Bowie and the Spiderlegs From Mitch Marsh; KP and the Sightscreen Band; Fat Freddie’s Dropped; Benaud & The Jets; Brotherhood Of Simon Mann.”
126th over: England 343-5 (Root 159, Pope 29) In commentary, they’re talking about what they liked buying in Monopoly, which tells you all you need to know about how compelling the action isn’t. Luckily, we’ve got this conversation and me detailing this conversation to sustain us; three singles off the over.
125th over: England 340-5 (Root 157, Pope 28) England make up for that fruitful over by taking just three from the next, one dabbed by Root to third man, two flicked by Pope into the leg side.
124th over: England 337-5 (Root 156, Pope 26) After Pope twists to midwicket, Root guides four to fine leg, and three singles follow; that’s more like it.
“Fish fingers” says Gilad McAteer, which is a chirpse if ever I’ve heard one. “Not your Asda smart price (although i did live off them at uni so no disrespect intended), but Birds Eye over any fancy gastropubs attempt any day. Cheers, whats the score again?”
Not sure, but I am sure that we hope it’s chips it’s chips.
122nd over: England 329-5 (Root 150, Pope 24) Santner, who had just one over earlier, returns; there’s not a whole lot happening for him, and after a single to each batsman, Root works another off his pads that raises his 150. He raises his bat, but in businesslike manner; there’s work yet to do.
121st over: England 326-5 (Root 148, Pope 23) Root flicks to leg for two; are we saying a daddy is 150 ? I think I’d go 170 . Anyway, he’s a run closer when he chops to point and calls for two but adds one; Pope then cracks for to backward point, and my days he’s worked hard for that, by far his best shot of the morning.
120th over: England 314-5 (Root 145, Pope 19) Pope takes one, then a shorter one from Mitchell takes tiiiiime to arrive at Root, who sends it away to fine leg for four. A further single follows.
“Surely everyone can agree a proper greasy spoon fry up is better than any fancy-dancy bottomless brunch offer. Pound for pound the best meal out there,” emails Chef Pig and Fiddle.
I can’t argue with that: no dry plate and beans in a separate container, but yes scope for oozing sauce, yolk and fat. And i’d also add biscuits: though I have an extremely soft spot for Sainos’ Taste the Difference triple chocolates, I’d take a Maryland over any posh cookie, any day.
119th over: England 313-5 (Root 140, Pope 18) Wagner resumes and Root nudges to cover, raising the 50 partnership; Pope then does similarly. So, at what point do England move? I guess that pace of the pitch makes that tricky in any case, but they’ve got two batsmen in and a series to save.
118th over: England 311-5 (Root 139, Pope 17) Mitchell finds a spot of bounce but directs the ball at Root’s pads; he helps it around the corner for one. The gap between the sides is now 64, and that’s drinks.
117th over: England 310-5 (Root 138, Pope 17) Eeesh! Wagner attacks Root from around and Root stretches forward to impart and inside edge that goes into his back foot and misses leg stump by a breath. Next ball, Root dabs down to third man and they run one; that’s it with the scoring for the over.
116th over: England 309-5 (Root 137, Pope 17) Pope reminds himself to watch the ball as he plays out a maiden from Mitchell –the second of the day.
“I’m watching the Sky coverage as well as following the OBO – I’m sure plenty of others do this. No? Oh.” begins Matt Emerson. “Anyhoo, Craig McMillan’s getup raised eyebrows here too, not only because of what he was wearing (a flat cap! Indoors!) but because it was so ill-fitting I suspect he’d borrowed them off someone else. On the ‘sharing bag’ discussion I’ll put a shout in for the M&S giant buttons. Fancy.”
Tangentially, there any arena in which cheap stuff is so much better than dear stuff, than chocolate?
115th over: England 309-5 (Root 137, Pope 17) A single to each batsman and Root’s first false shot of the morning, an inside edge of Wagner into his pad.
“Of the maligned Bicknell, Ilott, McCague, Caddick, Gooch, Thorpe 1993 attack,” says Ian Forth, “half of them were still playing test cricket for England in 2003. Fair to say Thorpe was no longer a significant component in the bowling discussions, though. What did he bowl, can you remember?”
RMF: right-arm medium, filth.
114th over: England 307-5 (Root 136, Pope 16) Mitchell into the attack with the NZ lead 73, and Root clips a single off his toes to reduce it yet further as in commentary they complain about how many interruptions there’ve been to play, for kit to come on and off and such. Pope then flashes at a wideish one, inside-edging for four – he looks pleased with that.
“Sorry, but did you say beer and a tab at 14?” asks Peter Salmon. “I can see how that bowling attack might have made anyone reach for the acid, but it still seems a little precocious to me. Or is that just how funky Guardian OBO types have to be?”
Only 14 but my mind was older, to paraphrase Mobb Deep and then Lin-Manuel Miranda. But I’m fairly sure that was common behaviour amongst my peers.
113th over: England 302-5 (Root 135, Pope 12) In theory, this is a good test for Pope: can he stay calm and patient when it’s not going for him? Santner comes into the attack, and when Root takes his first ball for one, he has five more at yerman; all are dots, but there’s encouragement for the bowler, when Pope pushes at one with hard hands.
“In our younger days my brother and I played a two dice version of Owzthat,” says Phil Withall. “You would initially roll one dice with runs being scored for every number except 5. If a 5 was rolled then two dice were rolled to determine either a dot ball or a method of dismissal. Obviously cheating was rampant and brotherly arguments frequent. We also had a dice football game, the name of which I can’t remember but I recall it being pretty underwhelming…”
Time to reup this from the summer.
112th over: England 301-5 (Root 134, Pope 12) It’s not flowing for Pope so far, but he forces one away into the leg side by attempting to drive into the off. Wagner, who’s going around to Root, is driven to backward point for one, as Athers talks about how the best education he could’ve had was at the other end to the aforementioned Gooch, who somehow became extra-brilliant at the end of his career; in pretty much any other sport, you’d have wondered if he was doping.
111th over: England 299-5 (Root 133, Pope 11) Root is in touch now. One from Southee stays low, and he adjusts beautifully to pull four; Athers says he’s in the top four England batsmen he’s seen, along with Gooch, Gower and Pietersen. I can’t argue with that, although the best batting I’ve seen across a series was I Ronald Bell of the eponymous Bell’s Ashes, 2013.
One to which we can all look forward:
This raises an interesting question: do you become the best team in the world by picking players according to conditions, or by picking players able to succeed in all conditions.
110th over: England 295-5 (Root 129, Pope 11) Pope takes a single to leg, then Root has time to floss his teeth and compose a witty yet pithy tweet while a bouncer from Wagner sits up; he uppercuts for four. A pulled single follows – there is literally nothing that doesn’t come pulled these days – and that’s your over.
“Jerusalem Singers Part II,” says James Debens. “REO Speedgun, Kiss My Chaminda Vaas, Googly Withers and the Bowljobs, The Detroit Spinners, Buddy Hollioake & The Crickets, Never Go Full Eddie Hemmings, The Crazy World Of Ali Brown, Geoff Lemon and The Plastic OBO Band, Khawajagoogoo, The Bonzo Rabada Band.”
109th over: England 289-5 (Root 124, Pope 10) I love the phrase “daddy hundred”, mainly because it comes from someone you don’t really think of as a phrasemaker, and because it was popularised not by its progenitor, Graham Gooch, but by someone
into whom he drummed it, Alastair Cook. Root then proves the original point, if there was such a thing, by opening the face to run Southee down for four.
he drummed it into
“I rejected Owzthat in favour of a more complex scoring system using two dice,” tweets Martin Connolly. “In my defence, weekends in the 60s/70s could get rather tedious.”
We’re going to need some more detail, please. On both the game and the tediousness of the weekends.
108th over: England 285-5 (Root 120, Pope 10) Right then, here comes Wagner; tangentially, I contend that, of the “sharing bag” chocolate genre, Crunchie Rocks are easily the best. Root hauls a pull to fine leg for one, the only run off the over; he looks there for a daddy.
107th over: England 284-5 (Root 119, Pope 10) Craig McMillan is wearing a cardigan, tie and flat cap; no further questions yer honour. Root clips a single off his tootsies, the only run from the over.
106th over: England 283-5 (Root 118, Pope 10) Root takes another single into the covers as Wagner stretches and Pope is beaten again outside off; I’m not really sure what he’s trying to play there, because he’s pushed sown the wrong line at one that he could’ve left.
105th over: England 282-5 (Root 117, Pope 10) Bumble is talking about Owthzat, which tells you all you need to know. Next: kids’ TV, golf, wine. My old fella has an original Owzthat set, which is pretty posh for 50s Cheetham Hill – most people scraped off the ends of pencils. Maiden.
104th over: England 282-5 (Root 117, Pope 10) A single to each batsman; there’s not a whole lot going on out there.
“Just been watching the very wonderful Seven Worlds, One Planet, North America,” says Kim Thonger, “and it strikes me that at the rate polar bears are evolving, to hunt beluga whales instead of their traditional prey, for example, they’ll soon be able to play cricket and frankly I don’t fancy the fragile England batting unit against them. Maybe we should avoid the contest and set up a series against the friendly looking prairie dogs, whose bowling line-up looks far less formidable.”
Also, aren’t polar bears actually black not white? I don’t think we can justify playing against a side who so flagrantly flout the dress code.
103rd over: England 280-5 (Root 116, Pope 9) There’s some of that up and downness! Southee fires down a pea-roller that rushes past Root’s bat and just past his off peg; that’s great news for England in its way, if they can fulfil their part of the bargain. Four byes follow, then Root pushes a single to cover and Southee beats Pope, who lazily waves bat at one outside off.
“The sage-faced adults who stand to sing Jerusalem, with actions, need a group name,” says James Debens. “Not The Artichokes, but what? The Ropey Boundaries? The Red Wine Tans?”
102nd over: England 275-5 (Root 115, Pope 9) Jack Leach’s health has improved – he’s still in hospital, but should be good to go home with the rest of the team on Wednesday. Pope drags two to leg, the only runs from the over.
101st over: England 273-5 (Root 115, Pope 7) Root feathers Southee away to point for one; Southee has the slips wider than usual, which makes sense against Root. Pope adds a single more.
“The 1989 Ashes series was the last time I had a dry series, as I was only 17 at the time,” says Simon McMahon. “So I blame English cricket, and in particular Phil Newport and John Stephenson, for the fact that my liver has had to endure thirty years of hurt since then. Never stopped me dreaming though. Come on England!”
A mate and I got busted by his grandad having a beer and a tab at Headingley in 1993; we were 14. Australia made 307-3 that day, and England’s, er, attack, was Bicknell, Ilott, Caddick and McCague. And Gooch. And Thorpe.
100th over: England 271-5 (Root 114, Pope 6) Pope chases a wide one and forces it away to backward point for two. A bunch of sage-faced adults stand to sing Jerusalem, with actions. I know. They applaud themselves subsequently.
Matt Henry has the ball to finish his over from last evening…
Right then, let’s get involved.
He seems an exceedingly sound individual.
He also says his white-line fever comes from how hard you have to work to get to play international cricket. He doesn’t have the skills the likes of Anderson do, he explains, so has to have a proper engine. He’s currently third in the Test rankings.
Neil Wagner tells Athers that however flat a pitch, batting last to save a Test isn’t fun. He says that the pitches in this series aren’t typical of NZ, and that young bowlers need to play on a variety of tracks so that they can do everything, but you learn your craft when you’re not getting help.
I really hope we get a good chunk of Ollie Pope today. He looks to have everything necessary to be very good, and it’s just a matter of when he puts it all together.
“‘…once the scores are round about level, he’ll step on it’”? says Harkran Sumal. “Man alive, sound the hubris klaxon! Looking at what’s to come after these two, I’d take parity, and would be dancing in the streets if offered 400. Steady on!”
That’s how I think he’ll play it if he can. Parity doesn’t get England anywhere.
He thinks England need to get well past NZ if they can, and the surface is deteriorating so he can see the game speeding up.
Root tells Ian Ward that he’s been working hard, “Trying to get rhythm back into my hands, pick them up a bit more, that generally gets my feet going. Little things that don’t look much on the screen make a huge difference,” he says, and also that he was “trying to be over-perfect”.
Ian Smith thinks the pitch is getting a bit up and down, but not quickly enough to help New Zealand today. “You can play on this for a fortnight and nobody will spin it,” says Bumble.
It’d be classic captain-era Root for him to get out early this morning, and he’ll know that. I’d expect him to go carefully to being with, then once the scores are round about level he’ll step on it.
“Reasons to be cheerful, part one,” says Andrew Chappell. “I have really been enjoying imagining myself on those lovely sunny, grassy banks, in NZ. The grounds are idyllic.
Of course, I am stuck in the early winter doldrums here in Montreal at the moment, so in fact, cold November rain in London would look almost as appealing.”
I do wonder if the banks are a faux ami – sitting on grass all day doesn’t sound great. But yes, I could cope.
“Evening Daniel, evening everyone,” emails Harkarn Sumal. “I watched the first 90 minutes last night before toddling off to bed. It seemed that New Zealand’s seamers were just hammering away on a middle and leg line to Joe Root, well back of a length, and that on this featherbed of a wicket, this approach was simply feeding paddles and pulls. I know Wagner loves banging it in all day long, but what exactly were they trying to achieve there? It’s not as if they were packing the field on that side to dry us up with leg theory. It made for very odd viewing. I went off up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire with a furrowed brow. Any light to shed?”
I guess they were trying to make him antsy by drying up the runs, but it didn’t work. I agree it’s kind of odd though – tempting him to drive and flash seems a better strategy.
A friend of ours and student of this thing of ours, Rob Smyth, suggests that England’s 2000-01 visit to Pakistan was the last time they played a series this dry. I guess that’s been mainly forgotten in the joy of the climax.
Reminder: we’ll be starting half an hour earlier this morning, to help compensate for time we’ve lost.
We’re all friends here and friends need to be honest with each other, so let’s be honest about this: it’s a long, long time since England played a series as dull as this series has been. And no, this isn’t something I think because England are poised to lose it – like all normal people, I take enormous pleasure in watching the team I support suffer – but is something I think because the pitches have been as dull as these pitches have been.
Of course you want conditions to be different around the world, of course you don’t want every pitch to be green; of course you enjoy slow periods, of course you don’t want matches done in fewer than four days. But you should want every track, however flat, to offer something to the bowlers – whether pace, bounce or turn – and you should want every track, however flat, to have some character.
But here we are now, perhaps on the cusp of liveliness. England need to make runs as quickly as possible in order to force a win, while New Zealand will want quick wickets to set up a slog then a skittling. Fingers crossed, pals.
Play: 10.30am local, 9.30pm GMT